When Kugan Kandaiah was granted asylum in New Zealand in 2008, he thought he had escaped from the atrocities of Sri Lanka's civil war.

A year later, the 48-year-old heard in the news that the war that dragged on for nearly three decades had ended, and thought the dream of reuniting with his family members was about to become a possibility.

Kandaiah, who lost his entire left leg in the war and wounded his right leg, then got a dreaded phone call from home.

His mother, 77, sister, 55, brother, 46, his sister-in-law and a 7-year-old nephew had all been killed when they escaped to a safety zone for civilians at the end of the war, Kandaiah was told.

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Kugan Kandaiah's five family members who were killed in the Sri Lankan civil war. This weekend marks 10 years since the genocide. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kugan Kandaiah's five family members who were killed in the Sri Lankan civil war. This weekend marks 10 years since the genocide. Photo / Dean Purcell

Two of his nieces, who would now be aged 19 and 23, remain missing to this day.

This weekend marks 10 years since the end of the civil war, in which the Sri Lankan Government forces battled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - also known as the Tamil Tigers - for 26 years.

A vigil, commemorating what the Tamils call the "Tamil Genocide Day", is being organised by the Federation of Tamil Associations NZ (FTANZ) at Aotea Square on Saturday from noon.

"When I heard about what had happened to my mother and other blood family members, my heart nearly stopped," Kandaiah said.

"After 10 years, I no longer feel anger, but I still feel very deep sadness and I still hope that one day I can get an answer ... why were they killed."

Photograph of a family member of Kugan Kandaiah who is still missing 10 years after the Sri Lankan civil war ended. Photo / Dean Purcell
Photograph of a family member of Kugan Kandaiah who is still missing 10 years after the Sri Lankan civil war ended. Photo / Dean Purcell

The United Nations estimate about 40,000 people, mainly Tamils, died towards the end of the war when the Sinhalese majority Sri Lankan Government defeated the Tamil Tigers.

Kandaiah, who fled to New Zealand with his then 4-year-old son and wife, said his family had been "innocent victims" and were not linked to the Tamil Tigers.

He said they were tricked into going to a safe zone where they were shelled and killed.

Photograph of family member of Kugan Kandaiah who is still missing 10 years after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. Photo / Dean Purcell
Photograph of family member of Kugan Kandaiah who is still missing 10 years after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. Photo / Dean Purcell

A report by the University Teachers of Human Rights group claimed government forces carried out a politically motivated massacre of surrendering Tamil Tiger fighters.

To many Tamils, both within and outside Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers were heroes, but they were also known for suicide bombings and recruiting child soldiers.

The rebels were seen by many as their only protection from violence from the military and the Sinhalese majority Government, which passed anti-Tamil laws - including one that made Sinhala the country's only official language.

The report's investigators found Tamil fighters gunned down civilians they believed were trying to escape, and that government troops threw grenades into shelters housing civilians and used a vehicle to bulldoze over injured civilians.

Dr Siva Vasanthan, the FTANZ co-ordinator, claimed 280,000 civilians in the final battle zone were imprisoned in several internment camps, where systemic torture and rape occurred.

"We want to create awareness among the NZ public and politicians about the mass killings and other atrocities inflicted on the minority Tamils by Sri Lankan military and Government," Vasanthan said.

He said the "absence of sensible political solution" and the ongoing military occupation of the Tamil homeland in the north and east of the country also meant Tamils had no other option but to exercise their "right to self determination".

An online petition, signed by 2700 people, will be presented after the vigil to MP Michael Wood, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities, to be handed to Parliament.

A decade after the war ended the United Nations is continuing to call for the Sri Lankan Government to investigate war crimes and human rights violations that were committed.

While there is no exact casualty toll, reports from the UN and other independent entities estimate the number of civilians death exceeds 100,000.

According to Stats NZ, 729 people in New Zealand identified themselves with the Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic group in the most recent Census figures released, recorded in 2013.

Three in four of them lived in the Auckland region and 83.1 per cent were born overseas, nearly 94 per cent in Sri Lanka.

Nearly 97 per cent were affiliated with at least one religion, and the most common religions were Hindu (78.9 per cent) and Catholic (7.9 per cent).