Sir David Akers-Jones, the most former senior government official likely to sit on the Selection Committee, believes the future chief executive does not necessarily have to be a civil servant. 'You have to distinguish between the role of chief executive and the role of civil servants,' he said. 'The separation of public servants from the chief executive is a real separation. 'It is difficult for people to think through this question of having our own chief executive because it's completely unfamiliar, an entirely new situation. The tendency in people's minds is to think of a familiar situation, which is really to promote someone from the civil servants. 'Various names have been mentioned, John Chan [Cho-chak], Anson Chan [Fang On-sang]. This is partly conditioned by the unfamiliarity of the fact that we are choosing our own chief executive. 'It's easier to think of promoting a civil servant than finding someone from the community,' he said. Now a Beijing-appointed adviser on Hong Kong affairs, Sir David served in the administration from 1957 to 1987. After stepping down as chief secretary, he chaired the Housing Authority. A vocal critic of Governor Chris Patten's political reform, he was ridiculed by London officials and criticised as a British turncoat. He was named one of the Hong Kong Affairs Advisers in 1993. This month, he was among a group of 30-odd former civil servants vying for a seat on the powerful Selection Committee formed to choose the chief executive and the provisional legislature. 'It's important that the Selection Committee should be as widely representative as possible. I would like to be part of the process,' he said. Contrary to cynics' suggestions, Sir David, 69, is adamant there will be a real election. Asked if he thinks Beijing has already made its choice, he said: 'I don't think it's true. 'There are not too many choices so far because nobody has come forward except T L [Sir TiLiang Yang] and T S [Lo Tak-shing], and possibly C H [Tung Chee-hwa.] There's a shortage of candidates, not the fact that it's Beijing's choice. Just not too many people want to do the job. 'I'm sure Beijing would like to see an election.' It will not be an easy decision, the former chief secretary said. 'We know them all. We are all friends. It's a difficult choice. It's not voting along party lines, like the American presidential elections. Here, we are voting on friendly lines. I'm a friend of all candidates.' Sir David hopes they will spell out their platforms and priorities before the Selection Committee members cast their votes. But he dismissed as 'unnecessary' the idea of requiring all candidates to announce their Exco line-up. 'We should let him be elected and choose his team . . . it's not like the US election, where we have running mate and deputy.' The future leader, he said, should be a 'versatile person' who spoke Cantonese, Putonghua and English and could travel around the globe to promote Hong Kong. 'He should give strong executive direction, to see red tape when it's there and cut through, to see indecision when it's there and make decisions.' Now an adviser to some business firms, Sir David dismissed fears of a 'businessman ruling Hong Kong' as an exaggeration. 'The systems in Hong Kong will prevent cronyism . . . once we start giving favours to a particular business, Hong Kong people and Legco will protest. 'There are only three names mentioned so far. One lawyer, one judge and the other, a businessman. [Mr Tung] is really an offshore businessman, a floating businessman. He's in shipping, not property,' he said. Whoever he or she is, Sir David said, the future chief must meet the Basic Law requirement of having lived in the territory for 20 years. 'He must have been in Hong Kong since 1977. 'He's seen Hong Kong grow and develop. He won't be ignorant of the social, political and economic forces that shape modern Hong Kong. 'Even though he may not be a civil servant, a businessman or a lawyer. 'Our governors since David Trench, Lord MacLehose, Sir Edward Youde, David Wilson and Chris Patten, they visited Hong Kong, studied in Hong Kong, but they won't have 20 years' living experience as our Chief Executive.' Like most Hong Kongers, Sir David said housing remained, as Lord MacLehose lamented, 'the biggest single cause of unhappiness in Hong Kong'. 'I think that's as true today in 1996 as it was in 1975.' Although the newly released consultation paper on territorial development strategy set out the problems, solutions were difficult to achieve. 'That would be one of my priorities.' Citing the speedy construction of the second airport, Sir David said nothing was impossible if there was a will. The other priorities, he said, were how to develop the economy while making improvements to welfare but without following the path trodden by the welfare states. These are Sir David's priorities. He would like to know how the various candidates rate theirs.