Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen spoke publicly for the first time yesterday about the row over alleged government interference in the Institute of Education, saying it was most important to discover the truth. Mr Tsang described the controversy as unfortunate and expressed fears it would be politicised. But he sidestepped the question of whether he had told some Election Committee members he believed there might be a conspiracy behind it. Mr Tsang's comments came a day before the Legislative Council education panel will discuss the matter. There have been repeated claims of government interference in the institute's affairs. These intensified after the institute's council decided not to renew the contract of president Paul Morris and allegations by vice-president Bernard Luk Hung-kay the institute had been pressed to sack four academics for criticising education reforms. Speaking on Commercial Radio, Mr Tsang called for calm. 'I think it is most important that we keep a cool head and find out what is the truth. The allegations are very serious. We of course want to know the details.' Speaking as a chief executive candidate, Mr Tsang said it was unfortunate and sad that the incident had occurred. 'It will become politicised easily. That is a fact and I am worried,' he said. 'But I do not want to say too much. This issue should be dealt with. More importantly, I trust Hong Kong people. They can judge what is true and what is false.' Mr Tsang met members of the medical sub-sector of the Election Committee on Saturday. One of those present, Tse Hung-hing, quoted him as saying there might be a conspiracy behind the controversy. Another member, Choi Kin, said he heard Mr Tsang say something similar. Dr Tse later clarified that Mr Tsang said the controversy was related to the chief executive election, while the word 'conspiracy' was used in relation to the termination of medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki from the Hospital Authority board. Election rival Alan Leong Kah-kit called on Mr Tsang to substantiate the alleged conspiracy claim or retract the remark and make a public apology. When asked about it yesterday, Mr Tsang said: 'I have good discipline. When I have meetings with others behind closed doors, I would not repeat or comment on what other attendees have said. It is a basic [rule] we should respect.' Mr Tse said Mr Tsang's comments yesterday were consistent with what he heard during Saturday's private meeting. 'Mr Tsang said the word 'conspiracy' but it was not referring to the issues in HKIEd,' he said. 'He does not need to explain. 'We are from the medical sector and were concerned about whether the non-renewal of Dr Kwok Ka-ki's term as Hospital Authority board member was related to freedom of speech. The controversy over HKIEd was not our prime concern.' Education panel chairman Tsang Yok-sing said people should not speculate on the affair, but 'if there are a lot of people thinking there is a political element to this, then that is not surprising'. The panel will discuss the affair today, but Mr Tsang said the key characters in the saga would not appear before Legco until after the Lunar New Year, when a special meeting of the panel will be held. 'If, after their evidence, the affair is still unclear, we will consider whether there is a need for deeper investigative measures,' he said.