PETALING JAYA: The two-day political crisis in Terengganu could have been averted if Umno had taken more care in handling state leaders, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday.
"Both leaders (at the federal and state levels) must accept the fact that mistakes had been made by both sides," Dr Mahathir, 88, was quoted by Bernama as saying on Wednesday.
"If we had acted harshly, it would not be a problem for him to leave Umno," he said, referring to Ahmad Said, the former Terengganu mentri besar who quit Umno hours after being forced out of office on Monday.
Ahmad Said's departure was followed by two other state lawmakers, plunging the state into a crisis of confidence.
But the trio have returned to Umno on Wednesday, defusing a crisis that had threatened to topple the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in the oil-rich state.
"In Terengganu, crossing over to another party is normal and Umno leaders like to try. They would try to do it in Umno, then in PAS and in Umno again," Dr Mahathir told media after receiving an honorary doctorate in political development from Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta on Wednesday.
"It's their way, so we have to be careful as they can easily switch (party). It's their character."
Dr Mahathir said the party's weakness has given rise to the political crisis, according to Bernama.
"Umno is weak now. The feeling of party members is that it is focusing less on the problems of the Malay community but more attention being paid on opposition parties, the Chinese community and so on.
"Hence, there is dissatisfaction among the Malays. They support Umno not because of the leadership but because they dislike the opposition," he added.
To prepare for the next election, the Umno leadership should learn to empathise with the sentiments of the party supporters at the grassroots level, Dr Mahathir said.
He said that Umno had in many instances, made the same mistakes, but not many of its party leaders were brave enough to correct them. So the top leaders believe they always receive support, Dr Mahathir said.
"Umno seldom learns. I've said this many times before but they still don't realise it. We will lose power if Umno does not learn and repeats those mistakes," he said.