The Electoral Affairs Commission is expected to work independently and impartially, but is its role fully appreciated by senior advisers of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa? Notwithstanding the independent nature of the commission in drawing up the legislature's electoral boundaries for next year, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, was taken to task by Executive Councillors for the commission's failure to report to the inner cabinet before the boundaries plan was announced. Word of Exco members' dissatisfaction had already spread last week and it was reported yesterday that during last week's Exco meeting some members queried why the boundaries plan favoured the Democratic Party. Mrs Chan was questioned on why Exco had not been consulted before the plan was announced. An Exco source claimed the proposals were at odds with Mr Tung's and Exco's expectations. For people who have read the law - and Exco members are obviously expected to do so - they must know that the commission is not legally required to report to the Chief Executive and Exco on its preliminary proposals. The whole point of setting up an independent body to draw up the electoral boundaries is to ensure that commission can act free of any influence, including that of the administration, in working out a plan with regard only to the law. That is why population distribution must be the commission's main consideration in drawing the boundaries. If anyone thinks the commission has overlooked some important factors, he or she can surely draw it to the commission's attention and let the body cope with the problems. Surely, any such comments should be based on population considerations and not whether individual political parties are to be favoured or not. This backdoor attack on the commission, especially when it occurs in a high-powered body such as Exco, is disturbing. Not only does it reflect some members' ignorance of the law, it also bespeaks their hidden desire to pressurise the administration into promoting factional interests. More alarming from last week's Exco discussion was the implication that the commission seems to be expected to put forward proposals that are in line with the expectations of Mr Tung or his top advisers. What is the point of appointing an independent commission to do the job if it has to act in accordance with Exco members' wishes? If the commission should start to second-guess Exco members' preferences, would it not be more efficient for Exco to instruct the Constitutional Affairs Bureau to draw up the boundaries? Exco will have its chance to discuss the commission's final plan. If members have valid points to make, they can obviously raise them at that point and seek clarification from the commission. So long as Exco members do have valid points, it is hard to believe the community can dismiss their suggestions and take their views as the product of political motives. Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing is respected for the good job he did for pre-1997 elections and his impartiality must have been a key reason the SAR Government re-appointed him as commission chairman. It is unfortunate that some Exco members have overlooked the commission's difficulties and started to challenge its integrity. Let us hope the challenge only reflects a minority view and that most members can appreciate the commission's impartial role and will judge its final proposals fairly and carefully.