An angry Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badwai on Sunday offered to resign if it was proved that his country was engaged in an ethnic cleansing of its Indian minority.
At the same time, Abdullah admitted that people of Indian origin in Malaysia did face "social problems" but added that the authorities were with the community, Malaysian media reported.
Abdullah was reacting to the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) statement that the government was carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Indians in Malaysia.
He accused Hindraf of spreading "blatant lies" with a view to arouse hatred in the country and to spark racial clashes, The Star newspaper reported.
"The allegations are all lies to deceive the Indians that they are an exploited race.
"Malaysians will not believe this. Even the Malaysian Indians will not believe this. Ethnic cleansing is something (that) was done in Bosnia. We do not do it in this country...
"Tell me, do you believe there is ethnic cleansing in Malaysia? Is there ethnic cleansing, tell me? If I allow this, I would resign."
Then, looking at Indian media personnel, he asked: "Tell me, you are an Indian and so are you, have we been doing it for the past 50 years or even for that matter one week, have we done this?"
The Star quoted Abdullah as saying: "I'm really angry, I rarely get angry, but this blatant lie cannot be tolerated at all."
He offered to resign if there was proof that the government was involved in ethnic cleansing.
He said he did not want the people, especially the Indians, to be misled by Hindraf's "unfounded claims and allegations" and hoped that other races would not show sympathy towards Hindraf.
But despite his anger at the 20-minute press conference where he dealt mostly with the Hindraf issue, Abdullah pledged to look after the interests and the well being of the Indian community.
"The social problems faced by the Indian community are clear. I have never said no. We support the Indians but there are some quarters instigating them and making them feel unhappy with the government," he said.
Abdullah said the government had never marginalised the Indians. "I've helped them, I've helped them in many ways. They want money to repair their temples, I help because we respect other religions and they are not our enemies, they have cooperated very well with us, this is what has happened," he said.
Abdullah said the government had always given attention to requests made by Malaysian Indian Congress president S. Samy Vellu to improve the socio-economic status of the Indians, who form eight percent of the country's population.
"Be it to appoint senators or elected representatives, we give attention to and support all the requests," he said.
"The Indians have played their role. They have given strong support to the government and (the ruling) Barisan Nasional. They know we are just and fair.
"But sadly, some have been influenced by Hindraf and I hope they will evaluate Hindraf's statements carefully."
Abdullah said there was no truth to the claims in the Hindraf memorandum that a government-backed extremist group had destroyed a temple in Kampung Jawa, Klang, Nov 15.
He said that "lies" like this could cause racial conflict between the Malays and the Indians. "Is this what we are seeking in Malaysia, where there has been no problems between Muslims and Indians or Islam and Hinduism?"
"I do not want our country which is growing steadily and attracting foreign investors to be destroyed. We do not want the country to be in chaos by their actions," he said.
The Indian protests in Malaysia have found their echo in India, where the issue has been taken up in the national parliament and also in Tamil Nadu. Malaysian leaders have asked Indian politicians not to interfere in the country's internal affairs.