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Three things I learnt about the word ‘Sovereign’

What does 'sovereign' mean in Singapore's context?

Wan Munirah
Wan Munirah

Published: 4 May 2020, 7:16 AM

The word “sovereign” seems to be taking social media by storm last weekend after a woman was filmed at Shunfu Market for refusing to wear a mask.

In multiple videos that were circulated online yesterday (May 3), the woman dressed in purple claimed to be a “sovereign”.

The woman also said that “people don’t even know what a sovereign is” and that she has “nothing to do with the police”.

(She’s right. I have no idea what it means.)

So, is “sovereign” an exclusive club for unmasked Singaporeans who are exempted from the law? Also, asking for a friend, where can I sign up for it?

Humour aside, I took to social media to hunt for some answers, and this is what I found:

1. A sovereign citizen is not someone with royal blood (or works at an embassy)

The word “sovereign” might suggest an element of royalty, but in this context, it is anything but that.

Sovereign, as a noun, is defined as “a person who has supreme power or authority.” It is also used to refer to other supreme rulers like a monarch, a king or a queen.

In other words, a “sovereign citizen” is “someone who believes that he or she is above all law“.

I learn something new on Twitter every day. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Twitter

These definitions probably explain why the woman was not adhering to the mask-wearing requirements, but wait for it…

2. There’s this thing called the “sovereign citizen movement”

Unsatisfied with settling with dictionary definitions, I started Googling “sovereign citizens” and the results were W I L D.

Believed to have originated from the United States in the 1970s, people subscribing to the sovereign citizen movement declare themselves free of any government control, including its laws and regulations.

Forbes described this movement as someone who picks and chooses “a combination of quotes, definitions, court cases, the Bible, Internet websites, and so on” to justify why they can exempt themselves from the law without any consequences.

Meanwhile, the FBI referred to it as an “extremist movement”. People who identify themselves as sovereign citizens believe they are separate from the country they physically reside in.

Basically, an entitled and obnoxious person, like a Karen.

3. Being “sovereign” is not an excuse for anyone to refuse to wear a mask

Despite their claims of being exempted from the law, unfortunately, the sovereign citizen movement may not be recognised in Singapore.

It is still compulsory for everyone, including Singapore citizens and foreign residents, to wear a mask when they leave their residence.

Even if you are a self-proclaimed sovereign citizen or identify yourself as a member of the Wakanda tribe, Singapore’s mask-wearing requirements still apply.

But here’s how you can still be a sovereign – in your own home, of course. Go get your groceries and meals delivered to you whenever you want.

Be the queen you’ve always wanted to be from the comfort of your throne.


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