Trinidad’s governing multiparty, People’s Partnership (PP), is in the throes of its latest scandal linked to official denials. The PP is now making an embarrassing about-face concerning the existence of a secret police squad authorities had set up as a parallel police force to tackle the crime in a country that has already recorded more than 80 murders this year.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, criminal gangs trading guns and drugs from the nearby South American continent were kept at bay by a daring and heavily armed police unit known as the Flying Squad. The squad was eventually disbanded and replaced by several others with different names over the years, but its impact and effectiveness have stuck in the memory of the baby boomers and successive generations, leading to calls for a comeback.

Desperate to keep a 2010 election campaign to significantly reduce violent crimes and prevent murders, the administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has turned to a brigade of retired cops and private volunteers to form a new phantom force to ferret out gangs, secretly investigate crime and run intelligence operations for the Ministry of National Security without telling the police high command and the public.

But when some of the new Flying Squad members began to surface and speak out, National Security Minister Jack Warner and other cabinet colleagues steadfastly denied its existence, the millions channeled to the squad, its daily interface with the ministry and the payment for vehicles rented from private dealers.

Determined to prove that the government was lying, in recent weeks, 25 squad members have sat with attorneys and justices of the peace and swore to affidavits outlining the details about the setting up of a squad that bore many similarities to one formed by the governing Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) in neighboring Guyana a decade ago. That squad was blamed for executing more than 200 suspected criminals and government opponents.

But even as the debate about the government’s hushed handling of the Flying Squad fiasco continues, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is giving even more indications that authorities might not have the answers to the murders, the drug running, the gun smuggling and the criticisms that officials are not going after the white collar pro-government drug kingpins, but rather asking the opposition to support efforts to resume hangings.

The PP administration wants opposition support to amend the constitution to get around rulings preventing jailers from hanging convicts who have been on death row for more than five years because the long tenure is cruel and inhuman punishment.

The oil- and gas-rich island that is the last on the Caribbean island chain has 47 inmates awaiting execution by hanging. Most have exhausted avenues for appeals. Officials think a resumption of hanging will frighten criminals into staying away from violent crimes, but how government will explain its secret funding of a phantom squad is left to be seen.