Tributes are pouring in for Wong, who died earlier today from a heart attack.
The death of Malay Mail’s editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan this morning is a “great loss to Malaysia’s world of journalism”, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said today.
In offering his condolences to the veteran journalist’s family, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said he too was saddened over the news and hoped the family could stay strong in facing this challenge.
The Agong said he really appreciated the service rendered by the Negri Sembilan man to society.
The message of condolences was posted on the Istana Negara’s Facebook and Instagram account, along with a poster where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong both offered condolences to Wong’s family.
Politicians, including former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and the Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari, have conveyed their condolences via social media.
“The world of journalism has lost a role model and a veteran who is well respected.
“Condolences to Datuk Wong Sai Wan’s family for his departure earlier,” Najib said in a Facebook post.
Najib said Wong was professional and experienced, and had a very cheerful personality.
“His writings have always caught my attention.
“May his family be strong to face this struggle,” he said.
Similarly, Wee wished Wong’s family strength and condolences.
“Sad and shocked to hear of Datuk Wong Sai Wan’s passing.
“He was Malay Mail’s editor-in-chief and former Seremban bureau chief and executive editor of The Star.
“A long-time news media veteran and a true mentor to many of our current generation of journalists. He will be dearly missed by many,” he said.
Sai Wan, who was 59, was earlier today admitted to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) for heart-related issues.
According to his son Wong Chee Mun, Sai Wang came into the hospital at 5.30am and was admitted to the emergency room at 6am. His heart stopped beating.
“They tried CPR on him but couldn’t revive him,” he said.
Chee Mun said his father had a history of heart problems and stroke.
In a separate Twitter post, Azmin too expressed shock over Sai Wan’s passing.
“Utterly shocked to learn of the passing of veteran journalist and Malay Mail’s editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan.
“My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” he said.
Amirudin said Sai Wan’s passing represented the loss of another giant in the media industry during a crucial period in the country’s fight against Covid-19.
Veteran and former MCA leader Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, on the other hand, expressed gratitude for Sai Wan’s contribution to the former’s political career.
“RIP, my friend! You have played a big role in my long political career.
“Thanks for the memories!” he said.
Karangkraf chairman Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub also expressed his condolences to Sai Wan’s family, describing him as a good friend and a “teh tarik” buddy.
“Rest in peace, bro. Today I lost another good friend and teh tarik buddy. And the Malay Mail lost its editor-in-chief.
“(Being) EIC is a tough and stressful job. Last year, Sinar Harian lost two EICs: Datuk Jalil Ali and Datuk Baharum Mahusin. Occupational hazard!” he tweeted.
Former Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang said Malaysian journalism has lost yet another fighter with Sai Wan’s passing, as he also described him as a product of old school journalism.
“He was a product of the old school of hard knocks and pre-social media days. And a hardcore print media survivor until the Malay Mail saw its final print edition under his stewardship on Nov 30, 2018.
“I could feel when it was the saddest day in his life when after 122 years, the grand old man of journalism had to bow out and make way for online only.”
Azman also said it was only on Thursday (May 13) when he received a Hari Raya Aidilfitri greeting from Sai Wan, and he was shocked over his passing.
“Saw Wan himself epitomised quality journalism, a reputation he jealously guarded through all his work till the end.
“His passing was indeed a shocking news because it was only yesterday (May 13) he posted to me his online Hari Raya card. May his soul rest in peace.”
Wong, who was a popular figure in the industry, first joined The Star in the early 1980s as a cub reporter before being promoted as the staff correspondent in its Seremban bureau.
He was transferred to its headquarters in Petaling Jaya in 1995 as an assistant news editor and was also later posted to Hong Kong for about three years in 2001 as its correspondent there.
Wong rose through the ranks to be appointed as the newspaper’s executive editor.
In July 2013, he joined Ancom subsidiary Redberry Sdn Bhd as director of special projects, before being promoted to CEO in 2015, heading the group’s media division.
In January 2018, he was re-designated as group chief media officer.
His friends and colleagues remember him particularly for his direct links to political leaders when they needed their comments for stories.
His deputy, Joseph Raj, said the staff will miss him dearly as he was not only their boss but a friend who had time for anyone who wanted professional or personal advice.
“If at all you needed help, he was the one to turn to. Because he was always there,” he said.
His former colleagues who were close to him in The Star described him as the most jovial editor despite being a tough boss when it mattered, adding that he was someone who loved to dine with them after a hard day’s work.
He was also an avid golfer.
Star Media group adviser Wong Chun Wai said it was devastating news to him because they entered journalism at the same time.
“He was an ultimate old school journalist who was on 24/7 mode. He had excellent connections with direct calls to our top leaders. There are less and less of such committed journalists.
“Many of us will miss him,” he said.
Wong is the younger brother of veteran MCA leader Dr Wong Sai Hou, a former assemblyman for Kampung Tunku in Selangor.
Meanwhile, the alumni of SMK King George V in Seremban have paid tribute to their former classmate and friend.
David Teng described Wong as a caring brother, a fighter facing adversities in life, fellow scout, Georgian, and a Balderdasher.
“A long-time stalwart friend with a big heart and who used his editorial platform more and more in recent years to support the community,” he told Malay Mail.
Datuk Captain Badrul said he is truly glad to have had Wong as his friend.
“We have many people in our lives; family, neighbours and friends but no one knows us quite as well or shares our deepest secrets like a life-long friend. Friends are a gift from God, who bring us joy and happiness and help us in times of need,” he said.
Datuk Dr Rajendran said Wong was always there to help him when he needed it most.
“Always sharing ideas with your journalism platform. I am so sad to lose another classmate, you were a true Malaysian,” he said.
Danny Choong YF called Wong his hengtai (brother-in-arms) as well as a brother.
“A hengtai who never failed to extend his hand when in need. Hengtai, rest in peace,” he said.
Captain Ahmad Dzulkarnain recalled Wong as a man in a hurry, but always made time for his old schoolmates.
“Champion golf organiser, but our Inaugural Father and Son event was the most memorable. Rest in peace, my dear friend,” he said.
Darmendran K said Wong was a man of many hats, many friends, always there to lend a hand and fun to be with.
“His absence will be a vacuum that will be difficult to fill,” he said.
Adli Hafidz Mohd Yusof said he has known Wong since 1974, who became his confidant and best mate after the untimely death of Adli Hafidz’s younger brother.
“He certainly left this world a better place as a result of him being there. I will sorely miss you Wong,” he said.
The wake for Wong will be on May 15 and 16 as Xiao En Centre, 1 Jalan Kuari, Cheras, 56100, Kuala Lumpur. Visiting hours will be from 11am till 6pm.
Due to current standard operating procedures (SOP) under the movement control order (MCO), only 50 people will be allowed at one time, with a waiting area if those present exceed the permitted number.
The funeral will be on May 17 with the time to be confirmed soon.