They often cut an intimidating and imposing figure with their stern faces and their neatly pressed uniforms. The aides-de-camp (ADCs) of Malaysia’s Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong are often within an arm’s length of the royal couple, maintaining their security and wellbeing.
Some think of ADCs merely as “glorified security guards” or “individuals who pull and push chairs for the King and Queen”.
Beyond keeping an eagle eye on the King and Queen, the ADCs also execute other important tasks, including going through the royal couple’s schedule for official events, and being the conduit between the Majesties and the other departments within Istana Negara to ensure the smooth running of the palace and events. They also read up before heading to any events or functions, ensuring they have all the answer to every possible question posed by the King and Queen.
During their early days, the ADCs even slept in their offices, as they adjusted to the hectic programmes involving the royal couple.
Four ADCs serve Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, and Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah. Each of the ADCs comes from a uniformed body – the Malaysian Army, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Royal Malaysian Navy, and the Royal Malaysia Police.
Twentytwo13 sat with three of the four ADCs this morning. They shared their responsibilities and life as ADCs, and even cracked a joke or two.
‘If an ADC says he will take a bullet for the King, then he is a true ADC’
Major General Datuk Mohamed Zahari Yahya is no stranger to serving the royal family. His father, Datuk Yahya Abdul Razak served the former Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah as Datuk Kaya Maha Bijaya Kuala Lumpur. And it looks like Zahari will continue serving Al-Sultan Abdullah and his consort as a special officer when the royal couple return to Kuantan, Pahang, later this month.
“Some people think we only pull chairs … it’s not true,” said Zahari, a senior engineer with the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
“The worst thing is when people don’t know us, they don’t know what our job is. Some even think we are security guards.
“There are those in charge of protocol, and the Agong’s and Raja Permaisuri Agong’s programme. As ADCs, we need to know everything,” he added.
Zahari turns 61 on Nov 29, but remains fit as a fiddle. Having been made ADC in 2019, Zahari is used to standing long hours, by the side of the King and Queen, during formal events. He also oversaw last year’s ‘Kembara Kenali Borneo’ tour, which was met with rave reviews.
“The longest for me was two hours and 30 minutes. It wasn’t just about standing and watching those who got their medals and titles, it was also to ensure the security and wellbeing of the King and Queen.
“If an ADC says he will take a bullet for the King or Queen, then he or she, is truly an ADC.
“I’m an engineer by trade. When I was chosen to become ADC to the King, it was an honour. I say this truly from the heart.”
A quiet King who is always concerned about others
Brigadier General Datuk Sharizan Wan Chik from the Royal Armoured Corps of the Malaysian Army has been the ADC since 2021. He was brought in after Major General Datuk Zahari Ariffin was made Comptroller of the Royal Household.
Looking sharp in his army uniform complete with a beret, Sharizan was quick to point out Al-Sultan Abdullah’s “built-in” caring nature.
“It was in 2022. Tuanku Agong was supposed to head to Kuantan by helicopter. It was raining heavily and Tuanku Agong instructed that we turn back and return to Istana Negara,” recalled Sharizan.
“But he really needed to go to Kuantan, and we decided to drive there, instead. Along the way, there was an accident near Genting Sempah. Tuanku, who was driving the car, stopped by the roadside to see what had happened. It was drizzling, and he got out of the vehicle without any cap or umbrella. A vehicle had rear-ended another car, and no one was hurt. But Tuanku Agong spoke to the drivers and even gave them some money to get their vehicles fixed.
“He then got back into the car, sprinkled some water on his head, and continued driving. That’s Tuanku Agong … it’s just built in him. He is pendiam (a quiet person) and he likes to help those in need.”
Sharizan said an ADC has to be loyal and cannot work in silos.
“We must anticipate and be forward-thinking. Those are the traits of a good ADC.”
Humbling experience in an environment of pomp and circumstance
Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk Azani Omar, who turns 50 on Sept 30, is the youngest of the four ADCs. But the Special Actions Unit (UTK) officer comes with much experience, having served as a security detail to the late Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, when the Sultan of Kedah served as Yang di-Pertuan Agong, between 2011 and 2016.
“In 2019, I was made the head of security at Istana Negara. In 2023, there was a vacancy after the ADC from the police, Datuk Azry Akmar Ayob, was appointed Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief,” said Azani, from Pasir Mas, Kelantan.
“I’ve learnt many things as an ADC. I have to constantly read up, as Tuanku Agong may sometimes casually ask me a question, and I must have an answer.
“For me, the biggest assignment to date was the ‘Kembara Kenali Borneo’ tour. The support from the locals was overwhelming, beyond our expectations. Although everything was carefully planned, I was still shocked by the reaction and the reception we received. Alhamdulillah, we completed our mission.
“I’m so used to VIP protection … and what we saw during the Borneo tour, required a delicate balancing act of having tight security in place for the safety of the royal family, while also allowing the locals to reach out and get close to them.”
Azani said Al-Sultan Abdullah was always willing to share his knowledge, while Tunku Azizah was an extremely detailed oriented person.
“Let’s put it this way, if a picture hanging on the wall is slightly askew, Tuanku Raja Permaisuri will quickly put it back straight.”
Azani said some of his colleagues would comment that he worked in an environment steeped in pomp and circumstance.
“In fact, working at Istana Negara is a humbling experience. We are here to serve the Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong. There are more do’s and don’ts here than outside (on the field),” he said.
Azani added that it was important for ADCs to keep reading and learning.
“Before any assignment, I will do my homework. It wouldn’t look nice if I can’t provide answers to the King and Queen, should they have specific questions.
“We cannot be complacent. We have to always be proactive, and anticipate a situation. There are a lot of ‘soalan cepumas’ (unexpected questions), not so much to test us, but for us to learn and be better,” he added.