'Sovereign' woman gets jail, fine after pleading guilty to failure to wear mask and public nuisance

Dominic Low
The Straits Times
May 7, 2021

The woman who claimed she was a "sovereign" when told to wear a mask in public was sentenced to two weeks’ jail and a $2,000 fine on Friday (May 7). 

Paramjeet Kaur, 41, pleaded guilty to one charge each for failing to wear a mask over her nose and mouth while she was outside her residence, and for public nuisance.

Five other charges were taken into consideration by District Judge Ronald Gwee during sentencing.  Three of these were for breaching Covid-19 regulations. The other two were for failing to report her change of home address and for refusing to sign her statement at a police station.

The judge backdated Kaur’s jail term to May 5 last year, when she was remanded in the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks.

Kaur made headlines in May last year after she was caught on video not wearing a mask and engaging in a heated argument with passers-by at Shunfu Mart near Upper Thomson Road.

In the video clip, which went viral, she claimed that she was "sovereign".

"It means I have nothing to do with the police, it means I have no contract with the police. They have no say over me," she is heard saying.

A man, who is off-screen, responds: "This doesn't even make any sense. If you're a person in Singapore, you have to follow the rules of Singapore."

But the woman replies: "That's the thing - I'm not a person, I'm 'we the people'."

The court heard that Kaur went to Shunfu Mart & Hawker Centre to buy groceries on May 3 last year.

When another woman confronted her for not wearing a mask, she retorted that she need not do so as she was not sick.

An argument then erupted between the two women, with multiple individuals gathering at the scene.

“The witnesses saw that the accused was not wearing a mask, shouting loudly and behaving in a defiant manner,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor V. Jesudevan.

Kaur also began filming the people present with her mobile phone, and refused to don a mask when offered one.

She was arrested the next day, and was charged on May 5.

In May last year, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that he had "checked up" what Kaur might have meant by claiming to be "sovereign".

He said: "There is a movement in the United States, and adherents to that movement, (broadly speaking) reject government, reject the police and any kind of authority... Such people should not live within society - she should not expect any of the benefits that come from this system of governance, including her security, medical care, other benefits."

On Friday, Kaur’s lawyers. Kertar Singh and Mohamed Arshad, said that their client thought that wearing a mask would hinder her ability to breathe normally or comfortably.

She was also under the impression at that time that she did not need to wear a mask as she was not sick, they added.

For failing to wear a mask over the nose and mouth, a first-time offender can be jailed for up to six months, or fined up to $10,000, or both.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year, or fined up to $20,000, or both.

The Straits Times

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