KOTA BARU, April 21 — “Where there is Tuanku, there is Pokya.”
Those were the words of one of the longest serving Kelantan palace employees Yahya @ Umar Daud, 70, who has lived to serve the Kelantan monarchy for three generations, from being an ordinary palace staff to an umbrella bearer, and guardian of the royal state awards.
Yahya’s service began at a young age — both his parents served the Kelantan royal family — where his mother would make grocery purchases for the palace household while his father was a palace household staff with the specific responsibility of watching over palace property.
Continuing the long-standing honour of his family, Yahya, popularly known as Pokya, has served the Kelantan monarchy since the rule of Sultan Yahya Petra Ibrahim until he became the umbrella bearer for Sultan Ismail Petra in 2009, and now the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V.
“I started working at the palace in 1978, and of my eight siblings, I am the only one who has continued to serve the Kelatan royalty,” he said when met at the Istana Balai Besar.
“I grew up in the palace grounds of Istana Batu, which is now a museum. In 2009, I moved to Istana Balai Besar as the umbrella bearer.”
Yahya said Sultan Ismail Petra had continued his services with the Kelantan palace after his retirement in 2001.
As for the present-day King, Yahya regards Sultan Muhammad V like his own son as he has had the privilege to watch him grow up over the years.
Yahya had been in service at the Istana Negeri in Kubang Kerian for 15 years, where he had the opportunity to be acquainted with the royal children.
“When Tuanku was younger, I was in service at the Istana Negeri. I had many close encounters with him as a child and I remember him to be polite and well-mannered, even at a young age,” he said.
“Even though I was only a palace staff, Tuanku’s modest character showed in how he always addressed himself to me as kita and not ‘Tuanku’.”
Yahya said the King’s caring behaviour was not only reflected towards the people, but to the palace staff, who were well taken care of by the monarch.
He said the staff would receive regular health check-ups by a personal physician who would come to the palace.
During the 2014 floods that hit the state, Yahya said, the King had ensured the welfare of the staff was well taken care of, and enough food and drinks were delivered to them.
“Our welfare and wellbeing are well taken care of and I am blessed to be strong and healthy at this age to continue serving the royal family,” he said.
As the royal umbrella bearer, Yahya has had the privilege to travel with Sultan Muhammad V, such as attending the official opening of the first meeting of the fifth session of the 13th Parliament on March 6.
Other than official functions, he would also follow the King during his outdoor activities, including his sharp-shooting practice.
“Rain or shine, I will always be on standby to shield His Majesty,” he said.
“I have been given the responsibility for so many years, Tuanku does not need to instruct me, I already know when and how to protect Tuanku from the weather,” he said.
Yahya is also entrusted to ensure the royal umbrella is in pristine condition and would inspect it regularly.
When on duty, he would wear the uniforms provided, which are a white suit and pants for non-official events, and traditional black baju Melayu for formal ceremonies.
Aside from serving as an umbrella bearer, Yahya is responsible for examining the list of state award recipients and for preparing the awards prior to the ceremony.
“The ceremony officer would give me the list of award recipients for it to be double-checked and ready for Tuanku to present the award,” he said.
Yahya, who has 11 children and 15 grandchildren, said he holds dearly the honour of serving the Kelantan palace, where he learned the art of speaking politely and gently.
“Should I lead a long life and good health, I will continue my service as long as Tuanku permits it,” he said.
“The royal palace is my flesh and blood.”
Sultan Muhammad V was chosen as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on October13 last year to replace Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah.
The installation ceremony of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is scheduled to be held at Istana Negara on Monday.