The International Herald Tribune says that :
Syed Alwi's career spanned more than 50 years. He is the first known ethnic Malay to study theater at a foreign university, earning dual degrees in theater arts and journalism at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s. ... After returning to Malaysia, Syed Alwi helped lead a 1967 coup by local arts activists against the Malayan Arts Theater Group, which was still run at the time by expatriates 10 years after the country achieved independence from Britain. The move enabled Syed Alwi and his peers to popularize contemporary Malay-language plays steeped in local culture. In 1974, Syed Alwi wrote one of Malaysia's most respected modern plays, "Tok Perak," which depicts the struggles of an aged medicine man who roams the country. ... Syed Alwi won the National Arts Award from the government in 2002 for his lifetime contributions. He is also remembered for his role as the top royal adviser in the 1999 Hollywood movie "Anna and the King," which starred Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat.It's a tragic end for a life so well lived. My love and condolences to his family.
The Malay Mail article seems to indicate that accidental death is a more likely cause than murder.